Surgical instrument tracking systems have been in use in the industry for over 20 years. In the earlier days, due to the lack of advanced tracking and data collection technologies systems had limited capabilities. They were only found in facilities with high budget and infrastructure. Tracking systems have now become a staple of the medical industry finding widespread applications in sterilized processing facilities and ORs. The last five years have seen a tremendous growth in surgical equipment tracking technologies. With processes and technologies like tagging of instruments and RFID tags, medical institutions have saved thousands of dollars and have greatly reduced the loss of equipment, delays in medical processes and lags in proper tool delivery.
Evolution of surgical tool tracking systems
Surgical instruments change location and hands on a continuous basis. From sterilization rooms to ORs to storage and back again. Hence keeping a track on the status and location of every instrument becomes critical in maintaining efficiency and in reducing the time of service. Previously, medical institutions used simple techniques like instrument count sheets to manage and trace their tools. With evolution in technology and managing processes, we saw the use of advanced tracking features like barcodes, adhesive dots, tags and RFID systems. This has not only allowed for better instrument identification but has also allowed hospital managers to maintain an accurate record of instrument use history. Tags are one of the most important features of any surgical instrument tracking system. They are used to identify instruments and trays as they move between surgical procedures and sterilization centers. Tags are helpful in identifying the status of the tool, whether it needs sterilization if it has been used, its designated room number where the surgery will be held, special handling instructions, and so on.
In addition to this, we have special RFID tags that use radio signals to transmit information about the instrument. RFID equipped tags can be used to identify and track surgical instruments using portable devices. There are two kinds of RFID tags that are available. Active RFID tags possess an internal power source can generally indicate the location and ownership of the instrument. Passive RFID tags are scanned by a reader and information is then transmitted to the database. Passive tags find use in instrument assembly and sterilization processes. Mats and trays with active RFID tags can detect the instruments placed on it providing information about its status and location.
Tracking systems and tags must survive sterilization
Surgical tools and instruments need to be repeatedly sterilized. This means that they are subjected to extremely high temperatures for prolonged periods of time. The tracking system that you implement must be able to handle such harsh conditions.
Today there are lots of metal and RFID tags that can survive autoclave cleaning and sterilization. For example, Xerafy’s XS passive ultrahigh-frequency tags can be embedded in tools which can survive extremely high temperatures as those found during autoclave cleaning. Even active tags such as Awarepoint‘s T2S can survive steam based autoclave cleaning. Before implementing any kind of tags, check its specifications for temperature and the nature of sterilization. The tags you use must be compatible with your process of sterilization.